Saturday, January 5, 2013

Why I love and hate long runs

I wake up at an ungodly hour on a Saturday morning, tiptoe into the bathroom, feel my way around and dress in the dark so as not to wake the spouse up, sip a steaming cup of green tea as I make my way to my car, almost jump out of my skin as the newspaper guy pops out of my neighbor's bushes, drive on deserted roads and make it to the park in one piece. It's still dark as I warm up and start my run. Still dark as I make my way back to the parking lot, pick up a few other runners. After a few more lazy miles, we pick up the pace a little, the sky gets lighter and we make our tentative way over the loose rocks and onto the towpath. I focus on the path a few feet ahead of me, falling into a steady rhythm, breath deep and even. Before we realize it, 3 more miles go by. We look up and see sunlight flood the sky. Our hearts soar.

About 12 miles in, soreness starts creeping in...the hips, shoulders, posterior tibialis, flexor hallucis longus; slight tightness in the glute medius, soleus, achilles. Why do I even know all these names??? A little adjustment, engage the core, more lean, erect spine, gather shoulders, loose arms, shoulders, hips, legs and feet. Better. The machine hums along for a few more miles. Wobble over the loose rocks again, run back to the parking lot, replenish, stretch (or not) and drive off to a hot shower, breakfast and to begin our weekends.

Sounds uplifting, eh?

Well, it's all rosy, except when I get a tad overzealous and run harder than I should be running.
Or when one of those crisp, ego-boosting 18 milers makes me get ahead of myself...viz the finish line of the Boston Marathon. You know what happens next...a faster 20 mile run the next weekend, followed by another even-faster 18 miler the next weekend, and then ruefully nursing my injured foot or knee or some other overused body part for 3 following weeks.

There's nothing more fulfilling than a reasonably long run (whatever distance sounds reasonably long to you). Sure, races and tempo runs can get your blood pumping and the endorphins racing. A long run does all that, plus gets you in a nice, reflective frame of mind (you're out in the open longer, so you're forced to take in more of the scenery, reflect on how wonderful life is, how lucky you are to be alive, and all that good stuff). And if you're a trail runner, the effects are will practically return from your long run with a rosy glow on your face and a halo around your head.

There's also nothing more frustrating than a long run...for me, at least. All my running related injuries are a result of long runs. The 10% rule does not work for me. I can increase my total weekly mileage by 10%, but my long runs are an entirely different story. The reason is most likely poor running form. I can bang out 6, 8, even 12 miles on any given run. After that, the slouching begins. The shoulder stiffens. I favor my right side over my left. Everything falls apart. Add to this the invincibility factor (this is where I spy the finish (of the Boston Marathon) at Boylston Street before I even get to the start...and start waving to imaginary crowds and picking up the pace)...what follows is impending disaster.

I can see you scratching your noggin. Wondering why it's such a big deal. Why I can't plod through my long runs like every semi-normal runner/marathoner who travels to Boston around Patriots' Day every year (or every other year) and lines up at the start of the world's most famous marathon. Be more CONSERVATIVE, you say. It's more important to get to the start of a marathon, you say. Unfortunately, to date, I have not been able to operate that way. I'm inherently competitive and while that's helped me accomplish things I've set out to accomplish, it's also been my achilles heel on many an occasion.

So, it remains my nemesis. The long run. I'm convinced if I can survive a marathon training cycle and get to the start of a marathon without a broken, twisted or mangled body part, if it's not a 100 degrees, if I don't get sick, throw up, break or twist or mangle a body part or get trampled upon or end up in the medical tent during the race, I can successfully qualify to run the Boston Marathon. I just need more practise in one little skill that has eluded me on long runs thus far...self-restaint.         

1 comment:

Beth said...

You can do it! BQ'ing is hard but you have what it takes and you can do it. Hang in there and I hope that your next long runs go well!